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Felony Vehicular Homicide
Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer
If an individual operates a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, narcotic drugs, depressants, stimulant substances, or the vapors of glue, and causes the death of another person, then that individual could face criminal charges of felony homicide. In order to prove the defendant guilty of felony vehicular homicide the Commonwealth must prove five elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
First Element: That a defendant operated a motor vehicle.
The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant operated a motor vehicle. The expression “operation of a motor vehicle” includes not only all the well-known and easily recognized things drivers do as they travel on a street or highway, but also any act that tends to set the vehicle in motion. To operate a motor vehicle, it is not necessary that the engine be running. A person operates a motor vehicle within the meaning of the statute when that person is in the vehicle and intentionally does any act or makes use of any mechanical or electrical component that alone or in sequence will set in motion the power of that vehicle.
Second Element: Occurred on a way or in a place to which the public has a right of access.
The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant operated a motor vehicle on a way or in a place to which the public has a right of access, or on a way or in a place to which the public has access as invitees or licensees.
Third Element: The defendant was under the influence of an intoxicating substance.
The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant operated the motor vehicle under the influence of an intoxicating substance. To be under the influence, a person does not have to be drunk or completely unconscious as a result of the intake of the substance. Being under the influence means that, at the time of the incident, the defendant’s intake of a substance diminished the defendant’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.
Fourth Element: That the lives or safety of the public might have been endangered.
The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant operated the motor vehicle in a reckless or negligent manner so that the lives or safety of the public might have been endangered. Reckless conduct may consist of intentional failure to take necessary care in disregard of the probable harmful consequences. What must be intended is the conduct, however, not the resulting harm. The defendant must have intended the reckless conduct. Reckless conduct can be described as “indifference to or disregard of probable consequences.
Fifth Element: That such operation caused the death of another person.
The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant’s operation of the motor vehicle caused the death of another person. The law defines a cause, for the purpose of this statute, as that which in a natural and continuous sequence produced the death and without which the death would not have occurred. In other words, but for a defendant’s conduct, the death would not have occurred. A defendant’s conduct need not be the sole cause of death, but you must be satisfied that it was the cause that necessarily set in operation all of the factors that ultimately caused the death of the victim.
If the Commonwealth has failed to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt any one of these 5 elements you cannot be found guilty of felony vehicular homicide. It is important for you to consult with a motor vehicle crimes attorney to discuss the elements of your case and to strategize a personalized defense.
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